Sequestered manicotti making with a Nice Cup A Tea
With the arrival of a boxed set of Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s *Little House* series I return to the sequestered life in my rooms overlooking the Hudson reading and writing. As I’ve bean a stranger to the kitchen arts and crafts for too long, following three days tasting dishes at the new local *Saggio* restaurant, have decided by writ of craving to make myself a favourite vehicle for a favourite-r ricotta cheese — manicotti. These will be not just any It-Am Mumma’s manicotti. I am making at present in between tapping at these keys a patient and fussy sort of manicotti with a secret surprise in each one. Not so secret as I will tap for you and you and you that I am pitting by my French knife which has finally ceased efforts to remove a finger or just the tip a green sort of olive from my dearest Fairway olive bar, and by stovetop low flame fry-roast whole smashed cloves of garlic — a fine opportunity to utilize my handmade garlic smasher from the wood of a pear tree only last June felled in a windstorm somewhere on a Finger Lake (said smasher is down below in pictorial form) . . .
The French chopped and chop-pitted, skinned, smashed, seasoned, fry-roasted and mixed ingredients patiently await their compositional fate. What does this entail of my hands and tools and what are the ingredients you are wondering . . .
One container of fresh dearest Fairway ricotta fork mixed with fine-to-coarse chopped flat leaf fine herb (parsley), a pinch of sel, cracks of piper and a pinch too of CRP. The fine herb was washed, gently stirred and drained in three big bowls of cold water to get any true grit off.
Green olives French knife pitted. Pits with leftover bits of flesh set aside to nibble on — waste not want not Pa or Ma would say if in spirit if not by exact word.
One whole head of garlic outer layers skinned, cloves separated, smashed (not too heavy handed here just enough to work out some fresh-to-resolve romantic frustrations) and freed of their skins to go into a small pot over a slow and low flame atop the stove with little pinches of sel, piper, CRP — quelle surprise!
One can opened with a second on deck of a San Marzano plum tomatoes . . .
Now back to work. The first part was a warm up to kitchen zen. This part will be a bliss of filling patience . . .
Instead of the usual five or six inch long manicotti shells, I opted to use a *pennoni giganti*. These are about three inches and about an inch or so thick. Dearest Fairway only had the ribbed for eating pleasure manicotti shells which I’m not a fan of. The ribs seem unnecessary to me. I liked the texture of the p. giganti and their pointed ends. It’s really just an aesthetic. Or not.
One by one, starting with the green olives, I placed some inside p. gigante, then careful spoons of the ricotta and fine herbs mix into each end. I repeated until all the olives were finished, then did the same with the fry-roast garlic cloves. They are quite soft so I pressed on them into place inside the p. gigante. I did the same with the ricotta, carefully spooning at each end. Once all of the ricotta mix, olives and garlic were finished, I began to build them into the Corning pan. A thin layer of San Marzano tomatoes on the bottom first, lines of alternating olive and garlic p. gigante, more San Marzano tomatoes, another row of p. gigante olive and garlic, another of the San Marzano and a third and last row of the olive and garlic p. gigante — making three layers of p. gigante olive and garlic separated by San Marzano tomatoes — and topped off with the rest of the San Marzano tomatoes. Fairway makes fresh mozzarella balls marinating in the usual suspects: fresh fine herbs, olio, CRP. I chopped about thirteen of these (rule of prime applied here) and made a blanket of these atop everything else.
The oven was set to pre-heat at 350° F. Once heated and the manicotti preparations were ready, in they went with a loose foil to cover and keep moisture in.
Some notes on my particular way of making this . . .
I do not pre-boil the noodles. There is enough moisture in the *system* to cook them to al dente.
One can of San Marzanno tomatoes was plenty enough.
I use light tasting ricotta and mozzarella only and forgo any Parmesan or provolone. I prefer also that the individual p. gigante remain somewhat autonomous and to not create a loaf per se. Though in a day, after refrigeration of leftovers, I suspect will loaf-ify.
This recipe was conceived by me on the fly. These ingredients and flavours are used interchangeably by me and by other home and trained chefs. I have no doubt of the garlic surprise. Perhaps I may have to try a different variety of olive if it does not turn out a success. Though I believe it will.
After about forty or so minutes thinking in the oven, I checked my dish to see how the noodles were doing. The whole thing looks and smells fine. The noodles need about ten more minutes. I turned the heat down to about 250° F to let it do just that.
This meal could feed four, five if served with an appetizer and salade, or even a meat course. It is Friday today and I am honoring family tradition to go meatless. This will likely feed only me and perhaps the final leftover will be packed for the neighborhood junkie up the street who I make care packages for once in a while.
I suppose I will dedicate this post to a long time dear friend and romantic notion who went off willy nilly and married some lady in need of a green card. It seems it hasn’t dawned on him that married is married and married men are not my Cup A Tea . . .